Biden urges restoration of Net Neutrality, greater scrutiny of tech mergers

12 Jul 2021

President Joe Biden has signed a sweeping executive order which he hopes will boost competition in a number of sectors – not least the telecoms industry. The ‘Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy’ was published on Friday 9 July and tackles four issues that limit competition, raise prices and reduce choices for internet services, namely: the lack of competition among broadband providers; the lack of price transparency for broadband services; high termination fees; and companies discriminatorily slowing down internet access. With regards to the latter notion, Biden has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restore Net Neutrality rules undone by the prior administration.

In February 2015 the Obama/Biden-era FCC introduced the ‘2015 Open Internet Order’, in which it reclassified broadband as a telecoms service, subject to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act. In December 2017, however, the Trump-era FCC voted in favour of repealing Net Neutrality rules. As such, the FCC’s ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Order’ took effect on 11 June 2018, scrapping the Title II rules and reverting internet services to their Title I ‘information service’ status.

In addition, Biden has announced ‘an administration policy of greater scrutiny of mergers, especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by free products, and the effect on user privacy’.

United States, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)